Maxine Aaronson, Attorney at Law
Attorneys discussing a case. Glasses resting on documents depicting charts/diagrams. The word 'strategy' is highlighted. Puzzles coming together.

Estate Planning Newsletter

  • Formal Requirements of Wills & Witnesses
    A witnessed will is only one of several different types of wills. It is also referred to as a “formal” or “attested” will, and involves the eyewitness participation of other... Read more.
  • Taxation of Long-Term Care Insurance After HIPAA
    People are living longer, but for many a reality of aging is that at some point they are unable to care for themselves. The costs of retirement homes and in-home care are rising, generating concerns for many on how to pay for the cost... Read more.
  • Processing a Life Insurance Policy Death Claim
    The beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the person entitled to receive the death benefit of the policy when the insured person dies. In order to collect on a death benefit claim, the beneficiary must usually comply with specific... Read more.
  • Tax Issues Related to Contaminated Property
    The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) imposes liability for the investigation and cleanup of contaminated real property without regard to whether the landowner created or allowed the... Read more.
Estate Planning News Links

When a Decedent's Killer is Also an Heir

If a person murders a relative, is he/she entitled to receive any of the victim’s property? In most cases, the answer would be “no.” Usually, a convicted killer cannot inherit a victim’s property, even if he/she is a rightful heir or a named beneficiary.

Required Characteristics

To lose all rights to the dead relative’s property, the criminal court will need to find that a killer:

  • Intentionally and feloniously killed the person
  • Was legally sane at the time of the murder

Even if a person is not convicted of murder in criminal court, he/she may still lose rights to the dead person’s property if the probate court finds that he/she is responsible for the person’s death.

Forfeited Rights

Once the above are established, then the killer is treated as having “predeceased” the murdered person. This means that any rights the killer once had to the decedent’s estate are passed to whomever is next in line to inherit or manage the estate (as if the killer never existed as an heir).

The killer will therefore lose all rights to his/her share of the following:

  • Separate, joint, or quasi-community property
  • Bond or life insurance benefits
  • Any nomination as executor, trustee, guardian, or conservator in the decedent’s will or trust

Other Forfeiture

If the killer pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter (instead of being found guilty of murder), he/she may not be viewed as being innocent and may still lose all rights to the decedent’s property.